In today’s economy, the need to leverage all of an organization’s existing assets to drive sales has never been more critical. Firms of all sizes are looking to make the assets they already have work harder for them – increase the SEO value of the website, use all of the functionality available in software apps, improve the content of email campaigns are just some examples.
One area that, in the past, has been easily overlooked as a prime asset is a firm’s relationships, especially in B2B. Jeremy Galbreath wrote a seminal article in TQM Magazine, “Success in the Relationship Age: building quality relationship assets for market value creation,” that really defined the concept of Enterprise Relationship Management (ERM).
"Enterprise Relationship Management is basically a business strategy for value creation that is not based on cost containment, but rather on the leveraging of network-enabled processes and activities to transform the relationships between the organization and all its internal and external constituencies in order to maximize current and future opportunities."
Although ERM is not new, organizations have not had the infrastructure or mindset to truly take advantage of their contacts and connections in a meaningful way. Although companies inherently understand the impact relationships have on their business, a systematic process of harnessing their full relationship network for business development and deeper customer engagement is often missing.
ERM automated software solutions seek to maximize the potential of each relationship by showing not only who you know, but how well you know them. Once you’ve uncovered this very qualitative and valuable information, you will start to see the potential business development and client engagement opportunities. Think annual business planning, cross-selling, referrals and event planning and development of new market segments.
The trick is how to convert this newfound information into marketing strategies and tactics. Let’s discuss the six main ways you can achieve higher and more measurable ROI from your marketing and business development efforts.
- Expanding the universe of contacts
The most immediate impact of ERM is the sheer number of relevant contacts you will add to your database. After implementing ContactNet, a leading ERM software solution, international law firm Kilpatrick Townsend developed a database of 1.6 million relationships from across the firm, and this number has been growing 35% annually. In fact, the firm found and signed a new client immediately following implementation.
- Opportunity segmenting
Once additional relationships have been uncovered, you can segment your lists based on almost a limitless number of variables, e.g. regions, subject area, title, and instantly see where the organization has the strongest relationships. This enables the marketing team to determine how they should make their next move. Once a strategy and goals have been established for penetrating a new segment, marketing efforts can be more easily linked to new business opportunities.
- Pinpoint marketing
The ability to segment lists also enables your team to execute targeted marketing campaigns to the right people. For example, Thomson Reuters recently used the information from ContactNet to develop the invitation list for a regional event and was able to increase its campaign reach by adding 20%+ more targeted contacts.
- Retention marketing
Retention marketing programs are aimed at increasing engagement, brand support, and loyalty to your company. Gallup, which has thoroughly studied customer engagement, found that only 13% of B2B customers are fully engaged. And because B2B companies typically have long sales systems that include stakeholders at different levels, it is even more important that they develop a process for regularly monitoring customer relationships so early warning signs are addressed.
An ERM solution enables managers to view the peaks and troughs in account activity and spot new relationships forming. By observing relationships at this level, they can determine the overall health of an account and ensure that activity is being coordinated across the organization. Keeping existing customers happy is considerably more cost-effective than new customer acquisition.
- Insightful lead nurturing
Simply sending routine marketing materials to every new lead that has been captured in the system is tantamount to creating SPAM. The idea is to match what the contacts need at each stage of the sales cycle in a medium that works best for them. Particularly with more complex sales opportunities, ERM analytics help leads move through the pipeline with more personalized lead nurturing programs.
- Higher conversion rates
Sending firm-wide emails asking if anyone knows a person at X company can only get you so far. That process is inefficient and incomplete. Even CRM systems, which are good at managing company records, often cannot provide the more perceptive details that live in emails, phone calls and social media networks. With these details, plus an analysis of the relationship strength within a company, ERM can help a firm craft customize key selling points and therefore yield higher close rates.
Lisa Gibbs, Global Head of CRM at Thomson Reuters, says “New contacts are interesting because they suggest that the strategy is being effectively implemented. If an organization can identify what particular activities prompted the successful linkage, this information can be fed back to the team in order to replicate and accelerate business development across a larger group of people. Such feedback can help guide a change of strategic emphasis or reinvigorate existing business development efforts.”
The added benefit of using ERM systems is that it allows business development efforts to be measured over time, providing opportunity relationship analysis on a monthly basis in order to assess the speed and volume at which new relationships are being formed. This allows your company to analyze the success or failure of any ongoing business development efforts, and fine-tune its strategy on this basis.
Download the case study to learn how ERM technology has enhanced marketing effectiveness at Thomson Reuters.